Friday, April 23, 2010

The Latest Health Reform News!

From Raising Women's Voices:

Graduating Students Get Reprieve From Losing Family Health Insurance
There's some good news for all those college students who will be graduating next month and facing the potential loss of the health insurance they have been receiving from their families' policies. While they are busy looking for jobs, which may or may not offer health insurance, these graduating students will be able to stay on their family policies.

Several major insurance companies announced Monday that they will keep graduating students on family policies, instead of waiting for a provision of the new federal health reform law to kick in September 23. That provision allows adult children to stay on family policies until their 26th birthdays. Because college graduations typically take place in mid-May, many families were worried about how to provide coverage for the new graduates over the summer and until September 23.

United Healthcare and Humana announced they will immediately allow young adults to stay on their parents' plans following graduation. WellPoint, which operates 14 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans across the nation, said it will adopt a similar policy, but it won't be in effect until June 1, meaning some students who graduate in May could face a short coverage gap.
Young adult women need continuous health coverage to ensure their reproductive health needs are met.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Monday wrote to other insurers urging them to keep young adults on family policies. Call your family's insurance company to find out what their policy will be.

Anti-Choice Forces Turn to the States: New Abortion Coverage Bans Emerge

The health reform debate has opened a new front in the ongoing battle over abortion policy in the states. The health reform bill leaves in place all public funding restrictions that currently exist AND leaves it up to each state whether to include abortion coverage in the exchanges that will be up and running by 2014. And as we know, if states do indeed cover abortion in the insurance exchanges they will require policyholders to make two separate payments; one for the abortion coverage and one for everything else.

Given this, we're seeing that 
anti-choice activists and legislators are hard at work to prevent women from being able to purchase abortion coverage in their state exchanges.

NPR reported:

Abortion opponents are not satisfied with the restrictions on abortion already in the measure, particularly those on abortion coverage in private plans that will be sold in the new marketplaces known as health "exchanges." So they are pushing one particular aspect of the new law. It lets states ban all abortion coverage in the exchanges.
Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, said her group wasted no time drawing up a model state law to that effect. They sent it out the day after Congress approved the health bill. It was a part of the legislation that states could opt out, and so we had a heads-up that this would be a window for us," she said. "So we moved right in to make sure that we could equip states with the tools that they need to have the most effective opt-out possible."

The ball started rolling in 
Kansas, as soon as February. The Kansas state legislature tried to require policy holders to purchase a rider for abortion coverage for all insurance providers in the state, regardless of whether the coverage was public or private. In a successful attempt to defeat the bill, pro-choice advocates attached amendments that would require supplemental insurance for smokers or people who use erectile dysfunction drugs, in an effort to demonstrate the burden of requiring riders for individual medical procedures.

Though it didn't pass, the 
Kansas legislation has jumpstarted similar efforts around the country. We've seen legislation bans moving in Arizona, LouisianaOklahomaTennessee and Missouri.

Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell proposed a bar on state funding for abortion services -- except as required by federal law. This is seen mostly as a gesture to social conservatives and because of existing VA law, it is expected to have limited effect. Regardless, many other states are planning to propose bans similar to those in LA, OK and TN. This continued separation of abortion services from health care is dangerous to women and we must work hard to prevent and defeat this kind of legislation in our states. 

Funding Health for the Whole Community – Another Benefit of Health Care Reform

When RWV started talking to women about what they wanted in health care reform, they told us that they wanted health care itself to be better.   Women want high quality care that works and they want current disparities between the health of different groups of women to be done away with.  There's no reason that a wealthy country can't create conditions that result in equally good health for everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, or their income level.  RWV took that message to the policy makers and we're happy to see that there's at least some attention to funding health for the whole community in the final law.  

The new law includes funds for a Community Transformation program that will give grants to disseminate evidence-based community preventive health activities. Why focus on programs that affect an entire community?  Because that's a great way to improve everyone's health, and to successfully address some of the current disparities in how often different groups of people develop certain conditions.  For example, some communities have had a lot of success increasing the activity level of average folks by creating neighborhood walking programs (the Black Women's Health Imperative's Walking for Wellness program comes to mind).

Other programs that have been successful on a community-wide level include reducing cigarette smoking in teens through advertising and increasing the amount of fresh produce eaten by kids by re-organizing school lunchrooms.  Many parts of the government have already invested in solid research into which programs work – CDC is funding programs looking at ways to increase activity and reduce obesity in rural communities, for example.  Effective programs that improve preventive health activities lead to improved health – less diabetes, less cancer, fewer strokes.  That's better health.  And that's another reason to like the new health reform bill.

Making the Most of Health Care Reform – Two New Presidential Appointments to Note

Many of us are now pivoting from the campaign to pass health care reform legislation to advocacy on implementation of the new law.  And we're watching the Obama administration's moves closely for indications of how well health care reform is going to work for the people and the communities we represent. Will they interpret the provisions of the law broadly or narrowly? What kind of oversight and enforcement of insurers can we expect? Will administrators seize the opportunities to improve health care quality as well as coverage?  One key indicator of what we can expect from the administration may be the people the president chooses to lead the changes, and in the last week we've seen two positive signs. 

President Obama nominated Dr. Donald Berwick to run the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where he'll be responsible for carrying out the expansion of Medicaid and trying to keep the costs of Medicare from growing unsustainably.  Berwick has been a leader in teaching medical professionals and institutions to set up systems that improve the quality of care and produce better outcomes for patients.  His focus on getting health services right the first time and reducing the need for follow-up care to fix problems that shouldn't have happened in the first place has the potential to make health care better and less expensive.

Jay Angoff was named to run the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, regulating insurers and insurance markets.  This is a critical position for making certain that insurance companies follow the new rules and make affordable policies with meaningful coverage available to all of us.  Angoff has worked as a consumer advocate and an insurance regulator at the state level and is well-versed in the kind of regulation and oversight necessary to rein in industry abuses.  He has said he intends to set rules that limit premium increases.  He's also noted that while progressives weren't successful in passing a law with a public option to compete with private companies, he believes that effective insurance regulation "could have a greater impact on costs and coverage" than the public option would have.

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